Archive for December, 2017


Moving Aside

Colorful foliage in the autumn parkAs we near the end of 2017, I’ve reflected upon my writing and whether to continue this blog. The mission of my blog was to enable readers to see blessings often hidden in plain packages. I asked for acceptance, guidance, and loving kindness to remind me what love is really like, to feel safe and lay my heart open, exposing my journey and soul to your inner light.

Looking back, I’m unsure exactly what my journey was. My blog’s journey started in 2012. And in four years and eight months since, I’ve opined upon many topics, from politics, health, spirituality and so on. Four years and eight months since, I remain unsure exactly what my journey is.

Over the years, I’ve opined on lost neighbors, friends, even blogs. “Ultimatemindsettoday” is gone. Respect Life? Gone. The Buddhist Blog? Gone. Women Active in Buddhism appears to have been updated eons ago, for Aung San Suu Kyi remains listed a hero. Shakya Design closed it’s doors December 2016. Quiet Mountain’s website struggles upon opening. Thus, since life moves on, I removed them this afternoon. Only one has moved forward – Oscar Relentos by publishing a book on Amazon, even noting a reviewer.

During these past years, our global community lost many good politicians, entertainers and sports stars. Also, too many military members died, both home and abroad. Mass shootings interspersed my blogs – Pulse Orlando, Ferguson, Missouri, Connecticut, and Las Vegas just to name a few. Hurricanes, earthquakes and other disasters crossed my thoughts. Still, forty-eight months later, did any one specific blog post change anything? Hard to say.

As such, I reflect. How has my blog impacted anyone? Or, maybe more so, “How has my blog positively impacted anyone?” That question, in and of itself, leads to a more contemplative thought, “Have I positively impacted anyone.

Looking back at various blog notes, I had a difficult time comprehending how current events could be mastered by older textual teachings. In a world of Trump-ism and self-importance, it’s hard to envision how the Biblical teachings that I grew by could prevail in a world of hyper-conservatism. Then again, it’s hard to understand how good people would let bad things happen. Yet more often than not, ‘we the people’ ignored our faith and jumped toward a pool of darkness representing itself as the path to glory.

Maybe my blog attempted new horizons, trying to communicate something fresh and exciting. My writing became less about legends and storytelling and focused more on current lessons and the beliefs that a Christ, Buddha, Dr. Martin Luther King, and others maybe would have pressed.

It’s ignorant for me to confess, but in my early twenties I visions of becoming a spiritual master. After seeing the God, who wouldn’t? Right? However, I have learned over the past decades is that real heroes are destined for greatness. But I never experienced such, as most don’t. Borrowing from Harry Chapin I am not a hero. At 58, I’m a tame and toothless tabby who can’t produce a loin’s roar.

The arrogant belief in their own legend. As such, I have no legend. I have no Wikipedia page. Just as politicians are blinded by their own ideals and belief in their own legend, so was the man some thirty or so years ago. What I have realized is that teaching and learning is a two-way street that it is. My own mentees have taught as many lessons as I taught them.

The real lesson is that all things are temporary. Even this blog. As leader and in life, I must move aside.

As 2018 nears, I will end with a quote from Roxanne Gay.

The older we get, the more culturally invisible we become, as writers, as people. But you have your words. Make sure there are people in your life who will have faith in your promise when you can’t.”

Yes … the real lesson all along was to ensure there are people in your life who will have faith in you when you can’t. That’s love. Love’s what it’s all about.

After reading Forbes writer John Wasik article of how the GOP Tax Plan screws the middle class, I doth believe the Ghost of Christmas Hate has arrived.

First, the GOP argument is that an average family earning $60,000 annually nets a couple grand – roughly $2,100 – to which they get to choose how to dispense versus the U.S. Government selection. If you’re Republican, rejoice. Clap. Clap. Applause. Applause. Say, “Amen Brothers!” and “Praise Jesus.” If you’re Democratic, ‘Meh!

So how does the Ghost of Christmas Hate fit? Wasik noted that tax break comes with trade-offs. Two grand never comes free. Since the tax plan adds $1.5 trillion to the national debt, the imbalance is offset by cuts in “entitlement” programs like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid or tax increases. GOP Senators rarely mentions offsets.

  • Lower Social Security payments by changing payment calculations. Much of that money comes out of the pockets of middle- and working-class taxpayers.
  • As Trump and GOP allies crow about how middle class families will receive a tax cut, other current tax breaks — like personal exemptions and property tax write-offs — get cut.
  • By 2027, anyone making less than $75,000 will have their taxes raised.
  • GOP Tax Bill does not cut corporate loopholes, bring back trillions in offshore cash nor cut defense spending. GOP will reduce the federal deficit by slashing big programs like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. As such, there will be no help for families paying for long-term care, payroll taxes or college. Monthly Social Security Checks will decrease.
  • People ages 50 to 64 would face average premium increases of up to $1,500 in 2019. As a result, 4 million more Americans will become uninsured in 2019 and 13 million by 2025, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates.
  • Even those who argue that the bill’s corporate and income tax cuts will spur economic growth can’t guarantee that any particular American will receive a raise.

Still, there’s positives to the GOP Tax Plan. The Ghost of Christmas Hate left wonderful rich boys and girls some benefits.

First, a quirk. The GOP Tax Plan exempts “private aircraft owners” from taxes on the “maintenance and support of the aircraft owner’s aircraft or flights on the aircraft owner’s aircraft.” I don’t know about you, but I’m glad Trump will not have to pay maintenance and support.

Second, Trump’s claim of “millions” of family farms and businesses suffering from the ‘estate tax’ (i.e., ‘Death Tax’) is not reality. There are no ‘millions.’ There’s no hundreds of thousands or tens of thousands. If the Ghost of Christmas Hate had repealed the ‘estate tax’ last year, approximately 80 of 5,500 of eligible estates would have benefited.

Why? Well, because only morons pay the estate tax.

Most fortunes amassed, like Trump’s, come from investment holdings, 55 percent of which were capital gains. They are rarely subject to tax. For these families, the first $5.49 million isn’t taxed, and careful tax planning can drastically reduce what’s owed on the rest. As Gary Cohn, the White House economic adviser, told a group of Senate Democrats this year, “Only morons pay the estate tax.”

Forbes notes wealthy people begin passing on their wealth to their heirs in the form of “charitable lead trusts” and other “exotic loopholes” long before the Angel of Death arrives. If Trump’s worth the $3.1 billion, as Forbes magazine says Trump is, by eliminating the estate tax excluding almost everyone, the Ghost of Christmas Hate saves Trump Jr., Eris and Ivanka $1.2 billion.

Third, Republicans are preparing to use the swelling deficits made worse by the package as a rationale to pursue their long-held vision: undoing the entitlements of the New Deal and Great Society, leaving government leaner and the safety net skimpier for millions of Americans. Speaker Paul D. Ryan and other Republicans are beginning to express their big dreams publicly, vowing that next year they will move on to changes in Medicare and Social Security. President Trump told a Missouri rally last week, “We’re going to go into welfare reform.”

Meanwhile, the $2,000 tax break you and I received is funneled back to the IRS, medical care, college costs, taxes, etc., etc., etc.

Happy Holidays from the Ghost of Christmas Hate!

One of the key Buddhist themes is Ahimsa, meaning ‘non-injury‘ or  ‘do no harm.’ Quoting directly from the Insight Meditation Center, “… the importance of upholding one’s personal well being is so great that the Buddha emphasized “one must not give up one’s own welfare for the sake of other people’s welfare, however great.”  In saying this, the Buddha clearly meant working toward one’s highest spiritual welfare ...”

Well, the spiritual welfare of others was discarded in yesterday’s Senate approval of their Tax Bill.

Three Republican senators who bucked their own party in recent months to effectively save Obamacare voted for a tax bill that would gut Obamacare. The GOP Senate tax bill would repeal Obamacare’s individual mandate, which requires most Americans to have health insurance of some kind or pay a tax penalty. At a minimum, at least thirteen million more Americans will likely be unable to afford insurance.

Maine Senator Collins was one of the original three.

Senator Collins, a holdout against the GOP’s first Affordable Care Act repeal touted changes she claimed to have secured in the Senate tax bill, including deductions for unreimbursed health care costs. Collins also said she reached an agreement with Senate Leader Mitch McConnell to pass two proposals designed to offset the elimination of the individual mandate that requires most Americans to buy health insurance.

The New York Times Editorial Board eloquently summarized the Collins sellout.

She (Collins) traded away her vote for an inadequate deduction for property taxes and empty promises from Mr. Trump and the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, that they would help shore up the A.C.A., which they have repeatedly tried to sabotage.

In separate Twitter posts, Collins justified her vote.

Very pleased @SenateMajLdr committed to support passage of two impt bills before year’s end to mitigate premium increases: Alexander-Murray proposal to help low-income families afford insurance & my bipartisan bill to protect people w/ pre-existing conditions via high-risk 

And second:

I received assurances today that no reduction in Medicare will be triggered by tax bill. See exchange of letters. 

While these letters makes Collins feel better, McConnell offers no assurances. In response to Collins, McConnell wrote:

There is no reason to believe that Congress would act again to prevent a sequester, and we will work to ensure these spending cuts are prevented.

What GOP Senators, Collins included, won’t tell you is that the passage of these subsequent ACA mandate repeal bills is doubtful as House Republicans, including the House Freedom Caucus, have already said repeal bills will not be supported. All Collins did is what most legislators, leaders and business leaders do – she found a way to clear her conscious. “WellI gave it my best shot.”

So, what’s the future? Bleak. Ultimately, the largest healthcare benefits will go to the wealthiest and those that have the most comfortable health care arrangements. The biggest losses fall to poorer Americans who rely on government support or must live with no support.

Bottom line … the GOP healthcare replacement plan is ‘death.’ If you’re lower middle-class or poor, die.

Help Me Believe

Strengthen the believer. Answer the critic.

%d bloggers like this: